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Back from WA

9 November, 2010

Yes,  I know it’s been quite a while between posts. The reason I can do it at the moment is fairly easy to explain: I’m on vacation. By the time I get home on normal work days, I don’t seem to have the energy to devote to such things as composing prose, deathless or otherwise. So I have to make the most of these lovely holidays and do some catching up online.

Albany Windfarm

We’re just back from a superb couple of weeks in southwestern Western Australia. We did a big triangle, from Fremantle/Perth down to Albany, then west through Pemberton to Margaret River (our longest stay at 5 nights) before finishing with a couple of nights in the Swan Valley. Apart from Margaret River the place is very dry – they had something of a drought this past winter (being a Mediterranean climate, that’s when they normally get their rain). But to make up for the brown countryside, the wine and food were good, the accommodation ranged from okay to fantastic, and the scenery along the various coasts was brilliant.

 

The plan is to put a selection of the almost 900 photos I took during the trip up on Facebook and perhaps on Flickr. I also took a few videos, e.g. of the Karri forests between Albany and Margaret River, some of which may find their way on to YouTube with a bit of luck.

Tomorrow I’ll be putting up information about our late Spring plantings, which we’ve done over the past couple of days. Tonight will be taken up with Tiger Trivia at Carina Leagues Club – the first time we’ll have been there in a month. It’ll be good to catch up with Bernie, Shane, Eileen, Trish, Tracey, Jackie…

Progress report – end of week 8

25 December, 2009
The vege garden after a shower

The vege garden after a shower

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, Christmas as it usually looks, here in subtropical Brisbane. Hot and humid, that is. At least this year the day has turned out to be only occasionally sunny, with half a dozen showers blowing through on their way from the Bay southwest towards the inland. Hope they’re lasting long enough to rain hard on some parched farmlands out there, and fill up some dams.

The Annexe in the sunshine

The Annexe, walking in sunshine

Yep, it’s Christmas Day, and we here in the Gardener Scampus residence are embarking on the first of our 10 days of vacation – at our workplace all back-of-house staff must take the time off between Christmas and New Year’s. Not that I’m complaining, I might add!

I went a bit mad with the camera this morning and took a veritable mountain of shots of the vege gardens, the ‘ornamental’ gardens, the yard, even the cats before I slowed down. Also took a couple of videos, the first from the back deck during one of the aforementioned showers, and the second of the house interior while Mrs. Gardener Scampus was vacuuming. Might put the former one up on YouTube – wouldn’t dare put the latter one up where anybody could see it. My life wouldn’t be worth a rotten cherry tomato (more on that later).

Anyway, on to the progress report, I say!

Chillies

Chilli plant ready to explode

Chilli plant with lots of upward pointing fruit

The quiet achievers of the garden, no doubt about it. I like the way they go about their business, neither over- nor under-performing, unlike some of the garden show-offs and ne’er-do-wells (hear that, corn? Beans?)

They’ve pretty much all got fruit on them now, whether in the main or Annexe gardens, or up in the back deck pots. All the fruit is still green, but the single fruit on one of the potted plants had grown so big that AnnMaree harvested it this morning, and I believe most of it has already gone into the marinade for our Moroccan-style pork this evening!

Sadly I didn’t get a photo of the chilli before it was filleted, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was at least 35 cm long and close to 10cm around… oh, alright. It was 10cm long and about 2cm in diameter at the thicker end. But that makes it considerably bigger than just about every other chilli in the garden.

So this was the second type of produce I’ve so far managed to harvest. And it wasn’t long before it was followed by the…

Cherry Tomatoes

First ripe tomatoes

The first ripe tomatoes - later picked and eaten

Yes, I took two tiny, red tomatoes off the smaller plant in the main garden this afternoon – the plant that, while lagging well behind its neighbour in terms of foliage, has been well ahead in terms of fecundity. The fruit will be going into this evening’s salad – how good is that?

Mind you, the mutant next door, when I tied up its wildly waving branches this afternoon, proved to have quite a few new fruit growing in many different places on it. So I hope that it will yet prove to be the equal of its leaner, meaner neighbour.

Healthy tomato plant in the Annexe

Healthy tomato plant in the Annexe

Unhappy tomato plant in The Annexe garden

...and the unhappy plant right next door

Over in The Annexe, it’s the same situation as it has been for the past few weeks. The plant on the left is growing well and starting to fruit. Whereas the poor plant on the right is brown and perhaps diseased in various spots, although the higher branches are green and doing better than you’d expect. No signs of fruit though.

What nasties can it be sucking up from the soil beneath it? Something left behind by the bloke who built the Colorbond fence? I suppose I should bite the bullet and pull it out, ending its misery. But there’s a little bit of Buddhist in me – I just hate to kill any living thing, even one that might be suffering.

Cobs on the sweet corn plants

Cobs on some of the sweet corn plants

Sweet Corn

These are large, green and very happy with themselves, with 2 or even 3 cobs growing on each plant. I noticed this morning that a couple of the cobs’ tassels are turning brown – does that mean those cobs are almost ready? From what I’ve read, that would be at least a couple of weeks too early. So I hope they haven’t caught some nasty disease that I know nothing about how to deal with. I’ll keep thinking positively instead.

Lebanese Cucumbers

Cucumber plants in the main bed

Cucumber plants in the main bed, showing their age

The older parts of the vines in the main bed are definitely looking tired as their leaves pale and go brown around the edges. Each of them still has at least one younger branch that looks and acts vigorous. I tied them all up to the trellis after my Power Gardener Nap this afternoon, and noticed quite a few small fruits coming out. So it appears that they’re currently only experiencing a bit of a lull, and more cucumbers are in the offing.

Cucumber fruit on a vine, main bed

Cucumber fruit on a vine, main bed

The leftmost plant has one or two good sized fruit on it, which will probably be ready to pick by next weekend.

The plant in the Annexe has now got into its daily pattern: during the hot part of the day the leaves droop, only returning to full vigour once the sun goes off the garden bed. It currently also has a 3/4-grown fruit on it – should be ready to pick before the next week is out, I estimate.

Climbing Beans

Bean plants, main garden bed

Slacker climbing beans in the main bed

The saddest story in the garden (so far). None of them look that healthy any more, none of them are growing at all well. When it comes to climbing beans, I’m proving rather a non-green thumb. Oh well, they’re not hurting anything where they are. I’ll leave them there and see how they go. No idea how long they live for – if they make it to the cooler weather (ca March 2010) they might, repeat might, perk up. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Carrots

Carrots viewed through a trellis

Carrots as seen through the trellis where the beans should be

It’s like the rain during the week acted as some kind of clarion call to the carrots. Their rosettes of above-ground leaves have all put on a massive growth spurt in the past few days – catching up after several dry weeks.

I don’t think there’s much root growth underneath those rosettes yet – but when it starts, thinning the rows out will keep me busy for a little while.

Beetroot

Beetroot in the main bed

Beetroot in the main bed. Note the size disparities!

Of the 10 plants I replanted in The Annexe a couple of weeks back, 8 are still growing, and 5 or 6 of them are growing well. Of the others, it may be that not enough of their leaves survived the passage, and they’re in some kind of stasis right now before they die. Or maybe they’ll suddenly spring into new life and prove me wrong. It’s 50-50, I’d say.

Beetroot, The Annexe

Transplanted beetroots in The Annexe. Most have managed to survive.

Of the 10 plants in the main bed (must give it a name one day, to match The Annexe. Maybe The Island?), all 10 are still growing, if you’ll believe it, even the two transplants. And the two large ones in the upper row are still the two largest ones out of all 18 surviving plants, by a long shot.

As yet I see no red, swelling roots pushing out above the soil under all this thriving foliage, but I’m now hopeful that many of them will deliver the goods, in their own time.

Eschallots

Eschallots, The Annexe

Some of the eschallots in The Annexe, carefully guarded from cat attack

The Eschallots are obviously slow, steady growers, who don’t like to be rushed. There hasn’t been much change in their size, although I note that some of them have pushed up a second shoot now. That’s nice to see – it suggests they might be starting to like their surroundings now. Sure hope so.

I don’t expect to see much from them for quite a few weeks yet.

Whoops, I’ve done it again – set the wrong date (27/12) on the camera! Honest, folks, I did take all the photos accompanying this post on Friday 25 Dec, aka Christmas Day. Looks like Ol’ Fumble-Brain wins again…

We had a couple of storms during the week, each dropping about a half hour’s worth of rain on the place. Suddenly those dead spots in the lawns are not so dead any more, as green shoots go sprong-o! all over them. You can tell how the plants throughout the yard were just laying low, biding their time, and waiting for the heavens’ aqueous Christmas present. Once the rain falls, they don’t waste time making the most of it! Everything is lovely and green out there again, in 3 or 4 days. Just like that.

The main bed from the west

The main bed viewed from the west

I’ve got this nasty feeling that much of the garden’s produce will be ready to pick during those 2 weeks we’re in New Zealand. Damn it. Everybody but ourselves (neighbours, friends, pests) is likely to see the benefits of my (reasonably) hard work out there.

Never mind. What I’m mainly aiming for from this garden, at least for the first couple of years, is an education – to get my gardening knowledge and skills back up to a point where I become a worthwhile and productive gardener again.

Let’s face it, any actual output from the gardens at this point is just a bonus.

Before I forget, by the way – MERRY CHRISTMAS to all, and good luck with all your gardening pursuits in 2010!

Progress report – end of Week 6

12 December, 2009
The garden bed on an overcast day

The garden bed on an overcast day

I woke up fairly early today. My first thought: darn! (or similar epithet), no Saturday morning sleep-in for me! Second thought: let’s make the most of this, get down into the garden and do some work, before things really start heating up!

And so I did – I spent  a little over two hours out in the yard, not exactly having fun, but certainly ending up with a good feeling of achievement by the end of it. Oh, and I was kidding myself – it was bloody hot out there, even at 9am, and despite the overcast.

Beetroot transplants in The Annexe

Beetroot transplants in The Annexe

What did I achieve?

  • I thinned out the beetroots, transplanted 10 plants into The Annexe and left 10 plants (2 of them transplanted from their original spots) in the main bed.
  • I ‘hilled up’ the soil around various plants in both beds, including the corn, chillies, tomatoes and beans. The beetroots, carrots and eschallots didn’t need it.

It will be particularly fascinating to see how the transplanted beetroot plants go, as I don’t think I was as careful in moving them as I could have been. Next time I’ll be sure to thoroughly wet the roots so that the soil sticks together better.

There’s not that much new to report since last week.

Cucumbers in main bed

Cucumber plants in main bed

The cucumbers continue on their prolific way, with another 3 good-sized specimens harvested during the week. We now have too many cucumbers, basically! Must learn how to stagger my plantings the next time around…

Of the tomatoes, only one of the pair in the main bed shows any signs of fruit as yet, while its neighbour continues to turn into a feral mutant. What the hell is in that soil just there, I wonder? Something that makes it want to grow lots and lots of foliage, and very little fruit, dammit. Over in The Annexe garden, the 2 plants there are as yet fruit-free, and the one on the right seems to be dying slowly, its lower foliage browning off and curling up and altogether rather sad-looking.

A crowd of carrots

A crowd of carrots - note the big one at top right

The sweet corn remains green and healthy, although I’m glad I hilled up around the stems of them all, as their roots were starting to show.

The carrots are looking good, although I accidentally pulled out a couple of the smaller plants while thinning out the neighbouring beetroots and redistributing soil. Given how many plants there are in each of the two rows, it doesn’t really matter. As the accompanying photo shows, the plant at the highest end of the right-hand row has decided to grow much, much faster than all the others. It’s like the pace-setter in a horse race.

The beans are still kind of sad, with 3 of them growing just okay, and the other 3 lagging way behind. I have no idea what’s wrong with them, especially given how well my neighbour Helena’s beans are performing.

Bottom end of the garden

Bottom end of the garden showing beans, with beetroot and carrots in the background

The eschallots remain small and somewhat insignificant, and prone to disappearance under drifts of mulch, moved there by cats burying their turds elsewhere in the garden. One or two of The Annexe plants are gone, but the four in the main garden between the sweet corn are still there. Obviously this plant takes a while to grow.

What happened to Week 5?

Somewhere over the past couple of weeks, it occurred to me that if I added things up properly, I’d actually lost a week in my progress reports. Oops. So that’s why this is the report for Week 6 rather than Week 5, which basically got absorbed into the last few weeks.

Cucumbers on the vine

Cucumbers on the vine, including a mutant in the centre

Tomatoes showing size difference

Tomatoes in the main bed showing the size difference between the 2 plants

Chillies in the main bed

Chillies in the main bed

Plant by plant – end of November 09

30 November, 2009

A rundown of how just about every plant in the garden is doing as of the 30 November 2009.

Beetroot rows

Beetroot rows, a startling contrast

Beetroot

A definite problem with the plants in the lower row, as mentioned in previous posts.

Carrots

Two rows of carrots growing well

Carrots

Coming along fairly nicely in both rows. The plants at the upper end of the right row are doing better, while it’s the middle of the left had row where they’re doing best. Hmm…

Climbing beans and their trellis

The six climbing beans

Beans

Of the six plants, three are doing very well, one reasonably well, and two are very stunted. So, a 50 to 60%% success rate, I suppose you’d call it. But the laggards may yet pick up their game – too early to call.

Cherry tomato - the leafy one

Cherry tomato - the leafy one

Tomatoes

One of the two tomato plants in the main bed is growing profusely. The other, while going okay, has a lot less foliage, but it’s the one that currently has the flowers – a range of  small yellow blossoms.

Cherry tomato - the one with flowers

Cherry tomato - the one with flowers

Meanwhile over in The Annexe, its two cherry tomatoes are very similar to each other in terms of growth patterns, though neither of them has flowers or is as leafy as its cousin over in the main bed.

The four chilli plants in the main bed

The four chilli plants in the main bed, some of them flowering

Chillies

Not much to report here. They all seem to be growing reasonably well, no matter what bed they’re in. I do need to mound up one of the chillies in The Annexe soon as it has started to lie down on the job a bit too much…

The three Lebanese cucumbers in the main bed

The three Lebanese cucumbers in the main bed

Cucumbers

Wherever they be planted (3 in the main bed, one over in The Annexe) the Lebanese cucumbers are doing darned well. As I’ve previously mentioned the plant beside the metal fence behind The Annexe does get very heat stressed and droopy during the hottest, sunniest part of the day. But as the sun goes off it during the afternoon the leaves revive and the plant soon looks much healthier.

Lebanese cucumber and cherry tomato, The Annexe

Lebanese cucumber and cherry tomato, The Annexe

Still, I think I’ll just give it a watering a little more often than the other plants, to compensate for the extra strain I’ve unwittingly subjected it to.

Sweet corn, main bed, 30 Nov 2009

The sweet corn in the main bed

Sweet corn

While all 6 of these plants are looking tall and leafy, there can be no doubt that the three set in the higher part of the garden are growing faster than the three lower ones. They obviously have the advantage.

Eschallots

Too soon to tell!

Conclusion

Regardless of their species, the plants on the elevated central spine of the garden bed definitely seem to be doing better overall. Methinks that after these crops are harvested I’ll be giving the bed a general levelling out, as I suggested I might do in another post, and hopefully this will result in better success rates right across the bed, not just in the one area.

Tip: Make sure your garden bed is level, to give all plants an equal opportunity and their fair share of the sun and soil.

Progress report – end of Week 2

22 November, 2009

There’s a beautiful, cloud-free day outside my window. We’re expecting a maximum of 32°  Celsius today, same as what we got yesterday. And of course the humidity has zoomed up again, as it always is in our subtropical summers.

It’s 17 or 18 days since I put the first crop in and there’s not terribly much to report for the past week. I’m happy to say that all plants have survived so far, and most of them seem to be thriving, in both garden beds. I’ve done my best to keep the water up to them, especially in the past few days as summer finally arrives in our neck of the woods.

Beans

A couple of the climbing beans, the one at each end of the line, are a bit puny, although in their defence they broke ground several days after the middle four. Hopefully it won’t disadvantage them too much in the race to claim trellis space, which by the looks of it will start soon.

Cucumbers

Two of the 3 Lebanese cucumbers in the main bed have already started to sprawl along the ground – unfortunately, in the direction away from their trellis. Time to tie them up.

A search of the house yesterday afternoon revealed that we don’t in fact own a ball of spring, and there are no old stockings to be had for love or money around here – the Other Half obviously tosses them out when finished with them.

Some time today, in between lawn edging and mowing duties, I’ll be shooting off to the nearest hardware to see what’s available.

Sweet corn

Yesterday I also bit the bullet and cut out the three superfluous sweet corn plants. When I originally planted the seedlings, three of them were in fact double seedlings, i.e. two seeds had germinated in those compartments in the punnet. Lazily I chose to simply plant the lot as they were, rather than separating out the extras. Fool – had I done so I could have planted the extras in all that spare space in The Annexe and now be looking forward to at least 3 extra cobs in a couple of months. Something to remember for next spring.

Tip: It also occurs to me that when you grow your veges from seedlings, you can’t stagger their planting in order to get successive crops, can you? You can really only do that with seed. Something to keep in mind for the future.

Pests

Still no sign of pest attack, though I guess the plants are all far too small as yet. And my intricately laid, protective pattern of old pavers seems to have kept the cats out – no Dead or Mutation Zones in there as yet (as there have been in the lawn at various times).

Composting

This morning as I was tossing a coffee bag (yes, I use them occasionally instead of tea bags in the mornings – they’re a mixture of grounds and instant and taste pretty good these days) into the kitchen bin I looked at all the food scraps in there and thought, this is such a waste (no pun intended). Gotta set me up a compost bin. So that’s likely to be the next semi-major garden project. “HA”, our lower side neighbour, uses a standard plastic rubbish bin with a fitted wooden lid, made by her builder husband “AA”. I don’t have the advantage of being able to call on AA’s skills so I’m going to look around and see what’s available – maybe when I go looking for that ball or string today.

Hmm. You know, I thought, when I sat down to pen this post, it wouldn’t last more than a short paragraph or two. I guess that the world of print is where I can take the opportunity to be a wee bit more verbose, unlike the realm of speech.

All plants are up now

15 November, 2009

Just a quick post to mention that, from a visual inspection this morning, it looks like all plants I grew from seed have pushed their way up and are now visible – beetroot, carrots, and the last of the beans. Pics below:

Bean seedlings are now all up

The climbing bean seedlings are now all up

Beetroot seedlings - now all visible

Beetroot seedlings - now all visible

Carrot seedlings - all now visible

Carrot seedlings announce their presence

Vege garden in morning sun

The garden in the morning sun

The Annexe and potted plants continue to thrive as well, particularly the Lebanese cubumber. I also discovered this morning that for about an hour or so at this time of year the Annexe is actually at least partially in sun sneaking around the southern side of the house.

Lebanese cucumber currently going gangbusters in the Annexe garden

Lebanese cucumber currently going gangbusters in the Annexe garden

Chillies and geranium on back deck

The potted chillies and their great mate the geranium thriving on the back deck

The Annexe garden in the early morning sun

The Annexe garden in the unexpected early morning sun

I didn’t quite make it out into the back yard yesterday so it was kind of imperative I got down there early this morning and watered them all. I used the waste water from our reverse osmosis water filter.